In this edition, we explore the ‘slowing down to speed up’ strategy, crucial for effective project management and organisational change. At 6R Retail, we apply this principle to streamline system implementations and process improvements, helping our clients reach their strategic goals efficiently.

Whether you’re navigating out of the mess of resistant behaviour or setting the scene for the start of a project, it is essential that the client or business who is paying for the project provides a clear and concise message. This will ensure that the project progresses smoothly and efficiently.

Slowing Down to Speed Up

Moving from resistance to direction often requires us to slow down.

“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” says Jocko Willink

The origin of this phrase comes from US Navy SEALs. An elite unit train their minds and bodies for all types of extreme situations that most of us will be fortunate enough to not need to navigate. However, at 6R Retail we apply a similar mindset to our project management approach to navigate complex systems implementations and business improvements.

Slow Down and Clarify.

At the end of the year, I was tired and in pain. Sitting in front of a computer is not what most people would refer to as a physically demanding job; it lacks the danger associated with mining, farming or physical labour but it can wear you down. I had constant pain in my neck and arms from working in front of a screen.

A chance change of routine had me, one morning close to Christmas, with a different trainer at the gym from my usual guy.

The new guy had a different approach.

He didn’t breeze through the steps or chat.

He consulted with the tablet and had me do the usual weights that the program dictated but he watched me from a good couple of steps away – intently.

Really intently.

He studied me from every angle as I did the first set of weights.

He corrected my technique in minute detail; shoulders down, elbows up, abs on, breathe in, breathe out, look ahead, relax your neck… it was like listening to a yoga teacher.

He took weight off the machine and made me s l o w down forcing me to focus not on powering through but on doing it well. After the session I knew that this was what I needed.

End of January, and after a couple of weeks off for a holiday and different training routine the pain in my neck is gone.

Key Insight: Just as focusing on technique in physical training can eliminate pain and improve performance, attention to detail in project execution enhances outcomes and reduces errors.

I have said to clients many times in projects that often you need to slow down to speed up.

What that ‘means’ is to focus on technique and improving the way you’re operating rather than spending energy ‘powering through’. Often the intent and energy of that powering through means we miss elements that are being executed poorly in haste.

Hastily executed work is often mistake laden or incomplete. What this means for downstream receivers of your work effort is that they then need to come back to correct or clarify for them to execute their part. This creates frustration and distrust in a group. Doing ‘it’ once and well is more satisfying for everyone involved, but to do so requires focus on technique and attention to the basics like in my training experience.

The key thing here is to make sure that everyone knows what the end goal is and why it matters.

If you don’t communicate what the end goal well, your team won’t know whether they’re making progress towards it.

Takeaway: By intentionally slowing down, we allow for a deeper understanding of the project’s goals, leading to faster, more efficient progress in the long run.

Foundation Building is a Future Investment.

In this phase, of team development, we are focused on getting the base level of the team and project working effectively. A directive approach allows a transition to building teamwork and collaboration in your project.

A directive style is used to set the tone, focus and goals of the project, to establish boundaries and relationships and communication expectations clearly to one another. Once this is established, the group can move towards more cooperative working processes and develop working practices that build trust and momentum for the project.

To begin, we need a small group of people (it can be a group of two) who are clear on what lies ahead and what the intended business benefits are. This person who is clear about the business benefits should be the project sponsor, the person whose role it is to champion the cause of the project and to provide the required resources to all the project team to deliver the project.

Takeaway: While directive leadership provides clarity and direction, evolving towards a more cooperative and trust-based team dynamic unleashes greater innovation and autonomy.

How Do You Want To Fail?

The client must be clear with their own team and the partners what’s required, by when and the quality and standards that must be met.

Clarity on ways of working, timeline expectations, communication channels, where skill gaps are, how change and risk will be managed may not all be intuitively understood by a client but must be developed as part of giving the project enough structure that it will function well.

Google have a practice that they call ‘reverse publicity release’ and there’s a lot to be taken from this idea at the start of a project.

The exercise asks the team to write the press release for their finished project. This forward imagining helps get clarity on the value that will be provided and asks for some tangible measures to share.

Then they do what’s called a ‘reverse post mortem’. What went wrong with their project? Getting people to think about what can go wrong helps to anticipate the failure points. A similar approach is adopted by the Australian cricket team captain Pat Cummings. He asks the question of the team ‘how do you want to fail today?’ Asking the question of ‘how’ do you want to fail frees up the often back of mind fear of failing to not ‘will I’ but ‘how will I’?

Cummings describes that how the Australian team typically choose to fail is ‘swinging hard’ bringing their best selves to the game, taking risks that lean into their strengths and backing themselves to give their all. If they fail from this place, they will know that they’ve given what they have and have not held back or been too timid to take risks.
So too we would like to be taking large and stretching swings at the project. Taking risks that we can back our team through.

Key Insight: By envisioning the end success and potential pitfalls through a reverse publicity release, teams gain clarity and focus, driving toward impactful results with preemptive problem-solving.

What Does a Directive Team Look and Feel Like?

The most obvious example of directive forms of leadership and working process is the defence forces; traditionally command and control leadership style has been the fastest path to action in high stakes situations like combat. Jocko Willink where I first heard the ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast’ quote is a retired US navy SEAL and has a lot to say about mindset and focus. He reminds us that to be able to direct a group of people and have them follow direction, there first needs to be some elements of trust established.

The philosophy of breaking down to be able to build back up is often the most difficult part of the process. Letting go of the urgency and desire to get that dopamine hit from crossing something off a task list and instead making time to focus on team composition, communication and building solid process practices that work can feel counter intuitive to improving the delivery of your project.

This form of directive project working places a lot of onus and responsibility on one or a very small few people. If these leaders are ones with vision and compassion, we can build from the directive approach out to a more networked and cooperative team where we develop autonomy and communication that reduces dependence on a centralised command style.

As we’ve explored the power of pacing and precision in project management, we encourage you to reflect on how these principles can transform your own strategies and teams. Ready to take the next step? Connect with 6R Retail for a consultation, join our upcoming webinar, or dive deeper with resources on our website. Let’s accelerate your success together.